Friday, July 25, 2014

Write-a-thon: Week 5 Update

Greetings, dear readers and sponsors.

First... THANK YOU to my new sponsors! I'm utterly delighted, astounded, and humbled to have so many generous donors sponsoring me in the write-a-thon. As of today, you, my sponsors, have donated $535 to Clarion West... so I'm just $65 from my fund-raising goal of $600. THANK YOU!

And now for the writing stats...

The total word count for week 5 was 2282, for a daily average of 326, and my slimmest day was 256 words, so I'm down a little from last week, but still meeting my daily minimum of 250 words.

Most of those words have been on the bead story and or the New Orleans piece. The bead story is now hovering around 16,000 words and has a ways to go, so it will be at least a novella by the time it's done. It keeps surprising me. One character that I thought had gone away for good just came back... and he's turning out to be far more interesting than I'd anticipated. Currently, he's a disembodied head, so there's that. He's also the closest thing that this story has to a villain. Not sure what's going to become of him yet. He's manipulative and resourceful, though, so I'm pretty sure he'll get out of his current jam--at least for long enough to cause more trouble for the good folk.

As for other writing projects I've been working on this week, I've continued to poke around at Elm & Fergus, and I'm contemplating some major alterations to the ending of one of my Clarion West stories from 2012. This latter is entitled, Wayward: A [Space] Opera in Three Acts. It's a retelling of Verde's La Traviata (which is a retelling of La Dame aux camélias by Alexandre Dumas, fils) that's set in a future in which humanity has largely evolved beyond biological existence and the few remaining societies of biological humans are preserved as treasured historical relics. In its original form--the version that earned me one of the most memorable critiques of my Clarion West experience... from none other than George R.R. Martin--the story closely paralleled the source material. The revised form that has gone out to (and been returned by) several magazines diverges to a greater extent, but even so, I've been trying to think of a way to let the story jump its rails entirely and become something new, something more relevant. Last week, I finally had a breakthrough. So now, two years after its inception, I'll be returning to Wayward for what I hope will be its final re-write. This is my favorite of my Clarion West stories, and quite possibly my favorite of all of my stories, so I'm very excited to dive back into its world and play some more.

Okay. Enough rambling and babbling about writing. Here's your weekly sample. This is new stuff from the bead story:

In the morning I finished the cereal and the milk. There wasn’t very much. Then I found a package of ramen noodles and opened it and sat on the floor in the living room, munching on them dry, and watched cartoons. I didn’t sit on the part of the floor with the blood stain. I tried to never touch that place. 

Mama didn’t get up until after lunch time, but she didn’t say anything about cooking. She barely even looked at me when she walked from her bedroom to the bathroom. There was a can of cream corn in the cupboard and I already knew how to use a can opener, so I opened it and poured it into a bowl and ate it cold with a spoon. I’d always wanted to eat a whole can of cream corn by myself, so that was nice.

Then there weren’t any more cartoons, so I walked around inside the house and counted the windows even though I had done that before and I already knew that there were nineteen. So I counted the doors. There were seventeen if you counted all of the cupboards in the kitchen and the bathroom. And there were thirteen drawers—not counting the two fake drawers in front of the sinks. And four faucets and eight chairs and three giant soup pots and one chain saw and two axes and four machetes and eight drinking glasses and six coils of rope and one straw cowboy hat. 

The hat wasn’t actually in the house, though. It was sitting outside, next to the driveway. It hadn’t been there when I’d gone around counting windows, because I’d looked through all of them to see if there was any blue in the sky and I would have noticed the hat sitting outside. I only saw it when I walked past the front window on my way back from counting the tools that Carl had left in the coat closet. 

It was Carl’s hat. I hadn’t ever seen him wear it, but it had always been on the shelf at the top of the closet in Mama’s room. Until he left. Because when he left, I’d looked to see if he’d taken all of his clothes and he had and he’d taken the hat too because it wasn’t on the shelf in the closet. Except now, it was sitting outside, on top of one of the raised flower beds Carl had put in a few months before and had planted with flowers, but then hadn’t watered, so all the flowers died. I went out to see if I could see Carl’s truck parked farther up the driveway, but it wasn’t there. The wind was blowing in little gusts and torn up little clouds were running across the sky, below the big flat clouds that covered up the blue. 

There was nobody outside. Just me and Mama’s car and the hat.

I walked over to the hat and stood in front of it, just looking at it for a while. I reached out to touch it, but then stopped and pulled my hand back. It didn’t feel right. I couldn’t say why. Like there was a wiggle in my chest and my arm when I reached toward it. It didn’t look right either. I leaned in closer, and I saw that it wasn’t Carl’s straw hat at all, but a hat made out of paper or clay or something and painted to look like a hat. Every detail of the woven straw and the holes and the hatband and everything were there—all painted so carefully that until you got really close, it looked completely real. 

I touched it lightly with a fingertip and it dented where I touched it and it didn’t spring back at all. I poked harder and my finger went right through and the stuff that the hat was made out of was soft and a little bit sticky and a piece of it stuck to my finger. I brushed it off, and when I did, I smelled mint. And then I knew what the hat was made out of. It was chewed up mint gum mixed with soggy tissues.

A gust of wind caught the hat and picked it up, then smashed it hard against the side of the house—flattened it. Like a green and grey and straw paint splatter. Where it had been sitting on the ground there was a hole. I looked down into the hole and down at the bottom—which close enough that I could have reached it by laying down on the ground and sticking my whole arm in, but there was no way I would have done that—was a face.

It wasn’t Dolly.

It was Carl. And he was smiling.

Thank you for reading, and if you would like to sponsor me--to help me achieve my fund-raising goal of $600, please visit my Write-a-thon page. There are some super cool kick-starter-esque premiums!

[My Clarion West Write-a-thon Page]

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